How to break up with a grad school

Each year, I debate about mentioning something about summer melt on the blog. Each year I don’t because I don’t want to sound bitter, angry or vindictive toward those students who did not enroll. With that caveat, let’s proceed. First off, a definition. Summer melt is an Admissions industry term to describe those students who pay a deposit, reserve their seat in the class, maybe even register for classes, but then as the summer heats up (get it, summer melt?), they decide not to enroll. Grad Schools realize this happens and they prepare for it when admitting a class. What I’d like to talk about is how to tell a school that you’re not enrolling. There is a way to break up with a school.

The best way to tell a school you’re not enrolling is to be honest, quick and confident.

We want honesty because it provides a better understanding of why you’re not coming and helps us identify trends that need to be addressed.  Were you just admitted off another school’s waitlist, did you get a job, cold feet about financing grad school? These are all common reasons for students not to enroll. If more students are not enrolling because of XYZ, next year, we will work to improve XYZ.

Be quick with your decision because then we can offer your spot to someone else, we can reallocate your admission/scholarship funding and we can move on without you. Don’t delay once your mind is made up.

We want you to be confident because you have the right to be. You don’t need to apologize for not coming–we want students who want to be at our schools, no need to hang your head low and pull the “it’s not you, it’s me” line. Don’t be arrogant, we are people too and we have feelings. If you’re a jerk to me and my little puppy dog eyes, you would probably be a jerk to an actual puppy dog. A simple email/phone call of “I’m not going to be joining because of XYZ. Thanks for taking a chance on me by giving me admission. I wish you and the school the best.” Also, don’t do this via social media. That’s unprofessional and tacky. One of the best lessons I’ve learned in life is how to say no while maintaining respect. Who am I kidding, I’m still learning this. Sending denial letters still makes me sick.

Above all, say something. If you simply don’t show up, you’re more likely to hurt the school but more importantly, your silence might negatively impact other students (especially if you had a scholarship).


Brad Miller


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